The best electronic keyboards can be shoehorned into two broad categories: professional workstation or arranger keys, and consumer home / education models. This covers everything from kids who just want the best keyboard for beginners to explore on, all the way up to professional musicians looking for an all-in-one electronic keyboard they can easily transport from gig to gig.
The best electronic keyboards come in a range of sizes and budgets, so finding the right one for your needs can feel a little daunting to begin with. Fear not though, because we’ve done the research for you, resulting in our expert round-up of the best electronic keyboards right now. Let’s take a closer look now…
Best electronic keyboards: The MusicRadar choice
While the Yamaha Genos is undoubtedly the best arranger / performer electronic keyboard out there, its mammoth price tag puts it beyond the reach of many. As such, in our view the Korg Pa700 wins out in the mid-range to premium sector. This electronic keyboard is a stellar combination of quality sounds and the right amount of professional features you’d expect for the money.
At the more affordable end of the scale is Casio’s offering for the best electronic keyboard, the CT-X700. It packs in a ridiculous amount of features for the price, but chiefly wins out due to the quality of sounds from its clever AiX sound engine.
Best electronic keyboards: Buying advice
So you’re in the market for a new electronic keyboard, but which type should you go for? The answer to this depends on your needs as a player. Home keyboards are great for newcomers in that they’re relatively inexpensive, lightweight and portable. They come with a range of sounds, onboard rhythm and backing band features, and often include a basic sequencer so that you can record a performance and jam over the top.
Workstation keyboards are more expensive as they’re designed to produce a full, studio-grade track without the need for a separate computer or DAW (digital audio workstation). These are the best electronic keyboards for studio or live performance scenarios, have advanced onboard sequencer capabilities, and are bristling with studio-quality sounds and professional features. Unsurprisingly, they have four-figure price tags to match.
Similarly, arranger keyboards are primarily aimed at performers who want to replicate a full band sound, making them the best electronic keyboards for those who want to perform as a ‘one-person-band’. Like home keyboards, arranger keyboards offer accompaniment styles that react to chord changes and other user interactions, but these tend to be way more flexible and sophisticated, featuring more styles than entry-level instruments.
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Best electronic keyboards: Product guide & reviews
This mid-range offering from Korg’s premium Pa line of arranger keyboards offers a respectable trade-off between features and cost. As such, the Korg Pa700 Electronic Keyboard provides plenty of pro functions to sink your teeth into, at a price that just tiptoes into the four-figure bracket.
Behind the excellent seven-inch colour TouchView display you’ll find a whopping 1,700 high-quality sounds and 370 factory styles to get you going, but the Korg Pa700 Electronic Keyboard has a stellar trick up its sleeve in the form of upgradeability. You can download and import more styles from the higher-end Pa series models, as well as third-party ones shared online, via a USB flash drive port.
Elsewhere, Defined Nuance Control adds authentic articulations to acoustic instrument sounds, enabling your performances to sound more lifelike. The Style Creator converts MIDI files into new styles, there’s an onboard mp3 player with voice remover, and you’ll also find a KAOSS Automatic MIDI FX generator with over 65 factory presets.
The entry point for Casio’s latest CT-X lineup of portable electronic keyboards, the Casio CT-X700 benefits from the AiX (Acoustic Intelligent Expression) sound engine developed especially for the CT-X range, representing a big improvement over previous CT models.
Of the 600 AiX-generated tones, the dynamic piano, organ, string and synth sounds are the CT-X700’s strong suits, and there’s a large bank of world instruments to explore. You’ll also find 195 preprogrammed rhythms with variations and fills, 110 song demos, and 50 practice exercises on board.
You can layer dual voices and split the keyboard. There’s a decent six-track song recorder and 32 memory slots to store user settings as custom presets. The Casio CT-X700 electronic keyboard can be powered by mains, six x AA batteries or by USB, and an auxiliary audio input lets you jam along to streamed songs from a smartphone, resting your device on a specially-designed pad as you do so.
Read our full Casio CT-X700 review
Korg’s ‘EK’ model designation stands for ‘Entertainer Keyboard’. While the EK-50 fills the gap at the lower end of the price spectrum for budding keyboardists, for a few quid more the new Korg EK-50L Electronic Keyboard sports a beefed-up speaker system with twice the power. It also has 24 new keyboard sets and 87 extra presets, giving it the same sound set as Korg’s pricier i3 EDM-oriented workstation keyboard.
With 790 onboard sounds and 290 accompaniment rhythms, including the new ‘contemporary’ presets, the EK-50L also enables you to layer up to three tones together at once for a massive sound. You can also download and import third-party style presets from the renowned, higher-end PA series of professional arranger workstations.
Elsewhere, plenty more pro features abound on the Korg EK-50L Electronic Keyboard. These include preset keyboard sets, proper audio line outputs, half-pedalling support (when using a compatible pedal), 40 user registration slots for storing user preset combinations, and a 12-track sequencer to record your songs. There’s also a USB port for playing MP3, WAV and SMF files, and for adding additional styles via a flash drive.
The Roland GO:KEYS is a fun, compact and portable keyboard packed with over 500 high-quality sounds derived from Roland’s Juno DS engine. Offering fully wireless operation via battery power and Bluetooth audio / MIDI, the GO:KEYS lets you control MIDI devices wirelessly. Or, you can use it to stream your favourite music through the on-board speakers and then play along with those songs.
The Loop Mix function differs from conventional auto-arrangement methods, as you combine loops to build songs by simply playing notes on this electronic keyboard. Each key in the first octave triggers a different drum loop in your chosen style, next section up delivers a selection of bass lines, next up selects two different chord parts, and you can mix and match all of these while jamming out over the top.
Furthermore, you’ll find performance control strips switchable between either filter cutoff and note repeat FX, or pitch bend and modulation. Elsewhere on the Roland GO:KEYS electronic keyboard there’s a built-in 30,000-note song recorder with USB export, and all of this is backed up with Roland’s legendary build quality.
Casio celebrated its 40th anniversary as keyboard makers last year, and this full-size, entry-level offering, known as the Casio CTK-1550 in some territories, serves up a plentiful amount of features at a true bargain price.
Aimed squarely at younger players, the CTK-1500 electronic keyboard isn’t velocity-sensitive, and although the quality of a lot of the sounds won’t win prizes, this isn’t a huge deal for most young children. However, kids will love the dance music settings, and with the 100-song built-in lesson library, 120 tones and 70 rhythms, there’s more than enough here to keep newcomers occupied.
As with most Casio electronic keyboards, the CTK-1500 includes a voucher for £50 worth of free lessons from the Casio Music Academy. This is where budding players can learn to play up to LCM Grade 5 standard piano with online lessons.
Yamaha’s successor to the well-loved Tyros line of high-end arranger keyboards, the Genos justifies its eye-watering price tag by sounding unlike any other keyboard on the market. Apart from the price, the main thing that sets it apart from the other keyboards on this list is the absence of any built-in speakers - you have to plug it in to an optional speaker set, PA or mixing desk, or just use studio headphones.
This indicates that the Yamaha Genos is the best electronic keyboard for professional songwriters, producers, composers and performers, and this is borne out by the sheer quality and quantity of the thousands of onboard sounds. Meanwhile, the sophistication and versatility of the 550 styles available for your built-in backing band improves greatly upon those found in the Tyros.
With a wealth of advanced features such as assignable knobs and sliders, voice harmony and vocoder functions, audio recording, and super articulation presets, the phrase ‘bells and whistles’ could have been coined to describe the Yamaha Genos electronic keyboard. It’s as fitting an example of the adage ‘you get what you pay for’ as you’ll ever find.
This is a version of the range-topping Casiotone CT-S300 that replaces the pitch bend wheel with a key lighting system. The Casio LK-S250 Electronic Keyboard takes an illuminated approach to learning by lighting up the keys to show you what notes to play next as you learn its built-in library of 60 well-known songs.
A fun Dance Music mode with 50 different styles enables you to remix pre-programmed songs and add vocal samples by pressing different key combinations. You can also connect a media player to the audio input and play along with tunes through the newly redesigned speaker system.
Used in conjunction with Casio’s free Chordana Play app (Android, iOS), and featuring an input to which you can connect an optional microphone and sing along, the Casio LK-S250 Electronic Keyboard makes a fun and versatile learning tool for aspiring keyboardists of any age.
Yamaha’s legendary PSS Portasound range from the 1980s has been reanimated in the shape of three new lightweight, sub-£100 models: the Yamaha PSS E30, F30 and A50. With cartoon FX and a quiz mode, the E30 is aimed at younger kids, and the F30 for more auto-accompaniment styles. Our pick of the bunch is the Yamaha PSS-A50.
Geared more towards portable synth-based, dance-oriented music making, the A50 drops the F30’s auto-accompaniment features in favour of a flexible arpeggiator and motion FX function. This electronic keyboard delivers real-time pitch bend, filter modulation and slowdown effects, all at the touch of a button. It’s packed with 138 different arpeggiator types, a portamento switch and 42 high-quality sounds sourced from Yamaha’s pricier E-series keyboards.
One of the biggest surprises from the Yamaha PSS-A50 electronic keyboard is its high-quality, velocity-sensitive keybed, taken from Yamaha’s Reface synth series, whose 37-note mini key format makes the unit incredibly lightweight and portable. Capable of running on batteries or USB power, all this means that the A50 makes a decent basic MIDI controller as well as a super-fun twist on portable keyboards.
RockJam offers a range of inexpensive keyboards for newbies, all aimed at delivering fun and entertainment for kids at a price that won’t worry your bank manager. These are the best electronic keyboards for kick-starting your child’s musical ambitions without too much financial outlay (in the event that keys turn out not to be for them after all).
While the 750 tones aren’t exactly award-winning, the RockJam RJ461AX (the AX model designation stands for ‘Alexa’) adds compatibility with Amazon’s Alexa voice control service, essentially doubling as a standalone Amazon Echo smart speaker of sorts. This allows the RJ461AX to stream tunes via voice command so that you can play along to them through the unit’s built-in speakers. This is a pretty cool trick for keeping kids motivated.
If you want velocity sensitivity and high-quality sounds you might want to look elsewhere, but for the first ramble through the foothills of your musical endeavours, the RockJam RJ461AX is well worth a look. It comes with keyboard stickers and a Simply Piano app voucher, and if you’re not fussed about Alexa, there’s an even cheaper version available in the shape of the RockJam RJ461.
Electronic vs Digital: what’s the difference?
Aside from the types of keyboard listed above, the best digital pianos are electronic keyboards designed to replicate the sound and feel of an acoustic piano. As such, they don’t usually offer the same degree of tonal variety and breadth of features, such as auto accompaniment and preset styles, found on other electronic keyboards.
Most digital pianos have 88 weighted keys, so these are much bigger and heavier than the kind of portable keyboards listed in our guide to the best electronic keyboards. That’s why we’ve excluded keyboards that are marketed as digital pianos, since these are slightly different and are covered in a separate guide.
Best electronic keyboards: what to look for
If you’re now shopping for an electronic keyboard, it’s a good idea to acquaint yourself with the basic features, as well as the more pro-level features you’ll find on the more expensive models. Let’s take a look at these now, starting with the actual keys…
When it comes to the number of keys, we’ve made 61 keys the optimum criteria for our round-up of the best electronic keyboards. This five-octave span is the most common size for this type of keyboard, giving plenty of scope for two-handed playing.
In terms of key size, most of the instruments in our electronic keyboards guide employ the full-size piano key format. Full-size keys are usually the best type to learn on, as it means your skills will be easily transferable should you ever find yourself sitting in front of a regular piano.
If you don’t want to bother anybody else while playing, a headphone socket is a must on your electronic keyboard. This means you can keep your musical noodling to yourself without annoying the neighbours.
Built-in speakers are an essential feature for this type of electronic keyboard. As a rule of thumb, the higher the power output of the amp that powers the speakers, the louder the sound. So if you're looking for a room-filling sound without having to plug into an external PA system, higher powered speakers could be important for you.
If not, the average home keyboard comes with a pair of speakers each with an output of between 2-5W or so, which should be perfectly adequate for home use.
A velocity-sensitive electronic keyboard will respond dynamically to your playing, so that soft playing results in quiet notes and harder playing creates louder sounds. Without it, sounds stay at the same volume no matter how hard you play, so velocity sensitivity is vital if you want to add any degree of expressiveness to your playing.
An electronic keyboard’s maximum polyphony is a measure of how many notes can occur at once without notes cutting off abruptly as you play. You may not think of this as an issue, only having a maximum of ten fingers in play at any time, but on keyboards such as these that feature sophisticated auto-accompaniment features, every sound the keyboard is making counts towards this number.
So that includes drum and percussion sounds, bass and auto chord voices, as well as anything you might happen to be playing on top! So the higher the maximum polyphony, the more complicated the arrangements that your keyboard will be capable of handling.
Rhythms / styles
Auto-accompaniment has come a long way from its cheesy, muzak-flavoured early days. Reaching untold levels of sophistication, today’s home keyboards now offer a crazy number of genres and styles, providing a number of different variations that work for different parts of a song, such as intro, ending and fill sections.
The greater the number of rhythms and styles on offer, the more versatile your ‘backing band in a box’ will be. Entry-level electronic keyboards can still deliver a healthy helping of cheese, but high-end arranger workstations can make you sound like a professional studio artist simply by lifting a finger.
Most of the keyboards on this list can be run on both mains and battery power, giving you the best of both worlds when it comes to portability and flexible choice of setup location. However, some can also be powered from your computer via a USB connection, something else to bear in mind if you ever want to use your keyboard as a MIDI controller with your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).
Also, if you’re intending to rely solely on mains power, check that a compatible power adapter is included in the price, as they don’t always come with one in the box
The technology behind the sounds found in today’s home keyboards continues to improve apace, to the point where a good deal of what was ridiculously high-end tech five years ago has now filtered down to the more affordable end of the spectrum.
A case in point is Yamaha’s AWM (Advanced Wave Memory) sound generation technology. Once the preserve of their high-end digital pianos, AWM is now found in their E series range of budget home keyboards, but is showing its age a little compared to newer tech like Casio’s AiX system.
Sustain pedal input
An acoustic piano can feature up to three foot pedals, but only one of them is absolutely essential when starting out, and that’s the sustain or ‘damper’ pedal. For this reason, most keyboards now offer a sustain pedal input, in order to achieve a realistic acoustic piano sound, but often don’t include a compatible pedal in the price.
Auxiliary audio input
An audio input will enable you to plug an external sound source (such as an MP3 player or a smartphone connected to a music streaming service) into your electronic keyboard so that the sound of it will come out of the onboard speakers, and you can play along to your favourite songs.
Bluetooth Audio / MIDI
Some models of electronic keyboard now offer Bluetooth capability. Together with companion smartphone apps, Bluetooth enables you to stream music from your mobile device through the keyboard’s speakers as you play along. It also enables you to record MIDI data of your performance over Bluetooth into the companion app or a third-party DAW for evaluation and editing.
If you plan to do any kind of computer-based audio recording with your electronic keyboard, you’ll ultimately need a way of getting the sound from your keyboard into the computer. This is where an audio interface comes in, a box that sits between your instrument and computer and converts the sound your keyboard produces into a format of data that can be stored and played back by your DAW.
This usually means having to connect up an external box, but some electronic keyboards now feature USB audio interfaces built in, negating the need for that extra box when connecting to a DAW-based system. While not essential, this kind of functionality does come in handy if you want to keep cable-related faff down to a minimum.
A huge sector of the marketing demographic for these types of keyboards is education, as the vast majority of keyboard players start to learn as children. To that end, a lot of home keyboards are targeted mainly at beginners, and will offer some sort of onboard educational system, such as onboard songs to learn, illuminated keys that tell you what notes to play, built-in music lesson functions or bundled subscriptions to online keyboard lesson services.
Layer / Split
Other common features include extra keyboard modes such as layer or split. Layer mode layers two sounds together so they can be played simultaneously, while split mode enables two different sounds to be played from the upper and lower regions of the keyboard - useful for combining a bass part in the left hand with a piano or organ sound in the right, for example.