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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Zombie thread!

I had a PA1000 and have yet another take on it:
- besides having the TC Helicon voice harmonies, it has a fantastic vocal/guitar top panel set of 5 buttons and knobs! For those wanting to use the Vocal In this was really great. Besides the volume knob it also had an effects knob and various buttons for choosing effects, harmonies, on/off. This was one of my favorite parts of the PA1000

- the keybed was a big disappointment to me, for a pricey keyboard it was a 6/10, wanted an 8/10 keybed, harder to press keys as you got closer to the back, though as AS said, the AT was nice

- I’m not brilliant with the technical side of things and found the PA1000, with it’s incredibly in-depth sound editing and style creation, to take way too much time learning the system. Hopefully the next iteration of the PA700/1000 will be more like the Korg EK-50, which is one of the fastest/most user friendly arrangers on the market (though considerably simpler given its price point).

As I’m in the market again for an arranger, I’m considering the PSR SX-700 (if I can afford it). The keybed is said to be better than the PA boards and altogether it’s reported to have fewer in-depth features but be considerably easier to learn/operate.
 
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Great to read your take on the Pa1000 Randelph.

Korg keybeds do leave a lot to be desired, I ended up disliking the keybeds on both my 700 and my Kross 2.

Trouble is I totally dislike the Yamaha sounds (except piano’s) and their Menu systems so the SX would be a hard sell for me to buy.

Now comes the but….. there is effectively only Korg and Yamaha in the Arranger market and both the 700 and 1000 were released in 2017 and neither has received any update at all, not even a significant update to there OS’s.

With Korg’s new Pa5X being a bit buggy and having cut down features compared to the Pa4X the horrendous price of a Pa5X 76 @ £3999 is a fair slice of my Pension and I would be hard pressed to justify that level of outlay.

So even if a replacement to the 700 & 1000 were to come out given that Pa5X customers are effectively Beta Testers Infor one would not be amongst the first buyers of any Korg.

My Korg Kross 2 took 18 months for them to release an update to its OS.

So from my viewpoint its troubled times for Korg.

Finally there is a Korg Webinar tomorrow (Thursday 19th Jan) @ 17:00 UK time so we shall see what Luke and Adam have to say.
 
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Zombie thread come to life! Good to hear your take as well Biggles.

If I’m smart about this I’ll just get the EW425 and enjoy the 76 keys, mod knobs, audio interface, lightweight, microphone in, and simply use my iPad if I need better sounds.

Yeah, it’s about time for another iteration of the PA series, going on 6 years since the last. Would be keen on the Korg EK-50 if it had 76 keys and a microphone in, they really upped the user-friendliness with that one, but I understand they’re using an older sound chip. Have you tried that one out, it is great the way they’ve put the voices front and center for choosing, volume, etc., very quick and obvious.

I’ve heard numerous people say they like the SX700/900 sounds more than the PA series, some saying they’re roughly equivalent. You’re the first I’ve heard say you don’t like them overall (other than the piano). I think there really is a ‘sound’ for a board that the engineers create, which must be what you’re responding to, but wouldn’t EQ/effects address much of that? I guess I’m expecting that Yamaha is as capable as Korg at this price point of creating excellent sounding arrangers.

In looking at prices for the EK-50L at Thomann, I found that they’d ship to California, $83, and even with that charge I’d still be ahead $185 compared to what I’d pay for it here (for some reason they don’t charge VAT). If I was forced to pay CA sales tax, I’d only be saving $135, but still, that’s substantial for a $679 board. The downside is that even with Thomann’s 3 year warranty, I’d have to eat shipping, so basically I wouldn’t be protected against buying a lemon or needing warranty repair, so basically like buying a used keyboard shipped from Europe.

I looked at the PA5X 76, and their price in English pounds is even more than what you would pay in England, so for whatever reason, that particular keyboard wouldn’t be a better price for you-
 
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The Pa4X was selling at £2350 for the 61 key version.

New Pa5X is @ £3699, which is one heck of a mark up

For a keyboard with less features, its nothing short of extortion.

Still if one wants the best, or rather potentially the best, it costs.
 
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I’ve heard numerous people say they like the SX700/900 sounds more than the PA series, some saying they’re roughly equivalent. You’re the first I’ve heard say you don’t like them overall (other than the piano). I think there really is a ‘sound’ for a board that the engineers create, which must be what you’re responding to, but wouldn’t EQ/effects address much of that?
For numerous reasons, not really. Essentially, you can't EQ a Steinway to make it sounds like a Bosendorfer, you can't EQ a Strat to make it sound like a Les Paul, etc. The differences between instruments are not simply how much energy that put out at different frequencies, and in fact, even the amount of energy they put out at different frequencies itself will vary with where on the instrument you're playing, how "hard" you're playing, etc. This is also why you can't have just one sampled piano VST with a bunch of EQ options to make them sound like different pianos. Each sampled instrument simply sounds different. These arrangers are sample-based instruments, and the instruments that they are sampling are different, played by different players, recorded with different microphones, with different miking techniques, in different studios, etc., even before you get to the skills of the programmer and the tools available to them on the particular platform. That said, there could be some commonality to the approach that leads Biggles to generally prefer Korg sounds. But whatever it is, short of resampling one board's sounds into the other (an approach which, itself, has numerous limitations), I don't think you're likely to get the sounds of one to be a whole lot closer to the sounds of the other than they are out of the box.

Personally, I don't have a preference, because Yamaha and Korg each have certain sounds which I prefer over their equivalents in the other, and even that may vary with exactly which Yamaha and Korg models you're comparing.
 
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Randelph.

Do make sure you research Thomann thoroughly.

There prices shown to non EU members do not include and local Taxes and and import tariffs that may be applied.

With the UK not being EU members Thomann prices look very good to me but by the time additions are made it becomes cheaper to source locally.
 
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Biggles,
So how much would the 76 key version of the PA4x run? And for that matter, a used one?

That’s a huge advantage of buying ’last years model’ when the new one comes out. Plenty of folks will be selling the PA4X in order to buy the 5x, and they’ve worked out all the bugs! Plus, you won’t be as stretched so far, getting needed accessories will be within reach.

I’ve never seen the appeal of the 4x/5x. IME, the PA1000 already had stunning quality sounds, to more than double the price is beyond me (and my budget). I was always surprised at how much of the 4x that Korg allowed the 700 and 1000 to inherit.

The biggest appeal for me would be the availability of the 76 and esp the 88 keys (5x only).
 
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For numerous reasons, not really. Essentially, you can't EQ a Steinway to make it sounds like a Bosendorfer, you can't EQ a Strat to make it sound like a Les Paul, etc. The differences between instruments are not simply how much energy that put out at different frequencies, and in fact, even the amount of energy they put out at different frequencies itself will vary with where on the instrument you're playing, how "hard" you're playing, etc. This is also why you can't have just one sampled piano VST with a bunch of EQ options to make them sound like different pianos. Each sampled instrument simply sounds different. These arrangers are sample-based instruments, and the instruments that they are sampling are different, played by different players, recorded with different microphones, with different miking techniques, in different studios, etc., even before you get to the skills of the programmer and the tools available to them on the particular platform. That said, there could be some commonality to the approach that leads Biggles to generally prefer Korg sounds. But whatever it is, short of resampling one board's sounds into the other (an approach which, itself, has numerous limitations), I don't think you're likely to get the sounds of one to be a whole lot closer to the sounds of the other than they are out of the box.

Personally, I don't have a preference, because Yamaha and Korg each have certain sounds which I prefer over their equivalents in the other, and even that may vary with exactly which Yamaha and Korg models you're comparing.
Yes but. I remember the Triton sound, for my ears it was god awful,, but they’d essentially set up many of the sounds to cut thru a mix. And then there’s different market segments. I’d long heard workstations received the raw ingredients for a polished sound, whereas for arranger boards that polished sound was handed to them on a platter. I don’t think that is as true as it once was.

IME, there IS a sound to most manufacturers. As I’ve spent more time with my ES920, I’ve come to appreciate the many suitable ways they’ve optimized the sound, and being on the discrete side, the evidence of that is how satisfying hearing it can be. There’s a tremendous amount going on under the hood, most of which I don’t understand (the sound engines are typically described in generic terms), but that is clearly one of the selling points for higher end boards, the sound engine being used, as well as the sample quality. I heard that when I still had my ES110: listening to the Sk-EX piano on both boards with high quality headphones, I could hear a clear bump in quality with my ES920.

I’ve also heard many people claim that the sound of the PA series was vastly improved by using the onboard EQ and adding a bit more reverb. I never felt the need for that, I already loved the sound of my PA1000, but apparently for some people it put the overall sound over the top and THEN it was clearly better sounding than the SX700/900.

So, YMMV!
 
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Biggles,
So how much would the 76 key version of the PA4x run? And for that matter, a used one?

That’s a huge advantage of buying ’last years model’ when the new one comes out. Plenty of folks will be selling the PA4X in order to buy the 5x, and they’ve worked out all the bugs! Plus, you won’t be as stretched so far, getting needed accessories will be within reach.

I’ve never seen the appeal of the 4x/5x. IME, the PA1000 already had stunning quality sounds, to more than double the price is beyond me (and my budget). I was always surprised at how much of the 4x that Korg allowed the 700 and 1000 to inherit.

The biggest appeal for me would be the availability of the 76 and esp the 88 keys (5x only).
The 76 key version of the Pa4X was £2600 if I remember correctly, it was £2350-2399 for the 61 key

Those selling their 4X’s are the very ones whinging about the 5X since their resources for their 4X are not compatible with the first iteration of the OS.

Whilst the 1000 is still good the 4X was markedly better in all aspects just like a Genos is superior to an SX900, but its moot if the superiority is worth the vast hike in prices.

One thing that the Pa5X has that no other Arranger has is seamless sound transitions as per the Korg Kronos.

Both the 700 and 1000 will be six years old mid year, and changes in Korg management plus chip shortage etc is not helping the market confidence.

I did find the 61 key Korg that I had a bit limiting and the 76 key 4X was considered but as it was old tech I discounted it, waiting for the 5X to come along. There is Korg’s first mistake, the name, they incremental number update gives the impression that it is a upgrade, wrong, it is a ground up new model. Yamaha rightly did not use the Tyros name with their new arranger, and Genos was born.

Korg should have chosen a new name, they did with the Nautilus which is basically a Kronos Lite.
 
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IME, there IS a sound to most manufacturers.
That's certainly possible. No doubt the different boards sound different, even though I'm not as sure it's a matter of "design philosophy" as opposed to just, well, different sources, programmed differently, are going to sound different. ;-) My point was only that EQ is not going to make a Korg horn patch sound just like a Yamaha horn patch, and so forth.

I’ve also heard many people claim that the sound of the PA series was vastly improved by using the onboard EQ
Similarly, making something sound "better" (however, one might subjectively make that judgment) is not the same as making it sound like something else. There are so many things that impact the sound. But also, when people say that EQ improved the sound of their arranger, I also wonder whether they're talking about making it sound better through its internal speakers vs. sounding better through a different playback system. It's possible that settings that improve how it sounds to you through its own speakers may have the opposite effect on how it sounds through a PA for a larger performance, or headphones or studio monitors if recording to a DAW, for example.
 

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